Long ago, I came to see the following, attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes, as an axiom by which to gauge a good deal of public policy:
Taxes are the price we pay for civilized society.
Today, I ran across this in the cesspool that is Facebook, and I’m a little ashamed to admit that it was posted by a former student:
I guess it hurts to see a chunk of your paycheque disappearing into the maw of Revenue Canada to be handed out by the Trudeau Liberals to miscreants both foreign and domestic, layabouts, drug addicts, Commies, queers and Jews (to paraphrase an old line from Asshole from El Paso, Chinga Chavin, c. 1975).
There is little doubt that much of what we pay in taxes is misspent in paroxysms of waste, but the object of the ire is often the wrong target by a long shot. All the welfare fraud, even all the welfare, pales in comparison with the funds eaten up by misguided projects like the Phoenix pay system where implementation is into the hundreds of millions of dollars stretching across the mandates of two governments with no end in sight to the expenditures and no resolution to the seemingly random overpaying, underpaying or simple not paying of civil servants. The examples of this sort of waste are legion, but even this sort of malfeasance pales in comparison to the amount of cash extracted by large corporations, by foundations and by rich individuals, money taken from people such as Tommy, the former student in question, and shipped offshore to be tucked away in perfectly legal (moral? not so much) accounts in Panama, the Bahamas, the Isle of Man, and such places for future reference, but without scrutiny by Revenue Canada. Revenue Canada recently was convicted of malicious prosecution of a couple of business people in Nanaimo, apparently chosen because they didn’t have the kind of financial and legal resources at the disposal of, say, the clients that KPMG counselled to set up accounts in offshore havens. Yes, you, the hardworking individual, are subject to the yoke of taxation in a way that touches the wealthy in a proportionately gentle fashion, it would seem.
I’m an old retired guy now, but I spent a lifetime working for a living, a wage slave if there ever was one. Before I discovered the joys of a career in the classroom, I worked in commercial fishing, in logging, in hospital and hotel maintenance, in construction, in plumbing, in bookselling, in grill cooking, in gardening and hauling, in rock drilling and odd bits of this and that to fill in the gaps and pay for much of my education (I also had a really good gig for a number of years running a pool hall and bowling alley on campus, not great pay but very satisfying socially). All along, I paid taxes, and, for the most part, it was money that went away to support other people and initiatives. I obviously needed it less than those who benefited directly from government largesse. But when I hurt my back rock drilling, I actually managed to get some support from WCB, and there were no huge doctor bills or prescription worries because there were programs, supported by taxes, to take care of those items.
We don’t always get the best value for our tax dollars, and the system of taxation is far from equitable and fair (a reflection of general economic policy), but I still pay taxes on my pension and am happy to do so for the aid that some folks get when they most need it and for those services provided by all levels of government.
None of us lives insolation and we all have contributions to make to our social life. Taxes are part of it, as is the responsibility to be informed on governance and to participate in the conversations that should be leading us forward.